‘Halloween’ Review: A Slasher Film Built for the Present Day That Stays Faithful to the Original

Check out our review of the new ‘Halloween’ movie that lands in theaters on Friday starring Jamie Lee Curtis and directed by David Gordon Green…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

There are going to be two separate kinds of reviews that you’ll likely read about the new ‘Halloween’ movie that drops on Friday in theaters nationwide.

The kind you’ll get from regular film critics — the ones that get paid to watch and review movies on a daily basis — and then the horror specialists, who probably aren’t racing to review the latest art house tear jerker but will be front and center on Thursday night to watch this newest update to the Michael Myers mythology.

Let me state for the record I fall in the latter category. As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, some of my favorite films were the classic slasher movies starring Freddy and Jason and yes, Michael Myers. I wasn’t around when the original ‘Halloween’ movie was released but I’ve seen it dozens of times by now as well as the subsequent — and usually quite awful — sequels that have followed over the years.

Lately, however, there’s been a bit of a horror renaissance thanks particularly to Blumhouse Productions — a studio built on low budget, old school horror films that aren’t made for tweens and rarely carry a PG-13 rating. These are the kinds of horror movies that give you nightmares after watching them and the studio seems dedicated to really original takes while always paying homage to the classics that forged the path in the first place.

So it’s with much relief that this was the studio responsible for the latest ‘Halloween’ reboot because there have seemingly been a billion sequels to the 1978 classic by John Carpenter and Debra Hill and very few of them remain watchable to this day. The last real attempted to reboot the franchise came 20 years ago with ‘Halloween: H2O’ that was made during an uptick in horror film popularity thanks to the ‘Scream’ movies.

That film was actually written by the same guy (Kevin Williamson) who wrote ‘Scream’ and there was definitely a ‘teen’ twist to that film with a whole lot of pretty faces decorating the movie alongside the iconic Jamie Lee Curtis, who made her first return to the franchise since appearing in ‘Halloween II’ in the 1980’s. The movie wasn’t all that bad — outside of the god awful parts featuring L.L. Cool J — but it was clear the filmmakers were trying to make the ‘Scream’ version of ‘Halloween’.

Enter David Gordon Green and his old film school buddy Danny McBride, who had a new yet familiar take on a new ‘Halloween’ movie that would serve as a direct sequel to the 1978 classic. The film they wanted to make would feel like ‘Halloween’ set 40 years after the original while ticking all the boxes for a classic slasher scare fest.

The changes to update the film for 2018 were smart and original — playing to audiences that have become obsessed with real life documentaries about atrocities such as the ‘Serial’ podcast, ‘Making a Murderer’ or ‘The Jinx’. Add to that, the portrayal of Laurie Strode four decades after she was hunted, attacked and nearly butchered by a masked madman who wanted her dead for no other reason that she happened to be babysitting on the street he stalked that night. How would a person deal with that kind of trauma? Would you ever really get past ‘that night’?

That’s what the new ‘Halloween’ looks to explore and while it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, it’s a smart take on an old school classic and that’s why this film works.

With that said, let’s get to our full review of the new ‘Halloween’ movie…

Plot

It’s been 40 years since infamous ‘Babysitter Murders’ in Haddonfield, Illinois and a podcast duo from England has traveled across the pond to do their own investigation into the classic case that involved Michael Myers — a boy who first murdered his sister at five years of age, went nearly catatonic for the next 15 years until he broke out of a mental ward and proceeded to kill five more people before he was finally stopped.

Perhaps it’s the visit from these podcasters carrying the original mask he wore on the night of the murders or maybe it’s the date on the calendar but obviously something stirs Michael Myers to once again wake up and stalk his prey.

Meanwhile back in Haddonfield, Laurie Strode has transformed into a doomsday prepper survivalist with a house that’s outfitted with every kind of booby trap and security precaution that an overly paranoid person could have. Ever since that fateful night in 1978, Laurie was scared that Michael Myers would come for her again one day but somewhere along the line her fright transformed to rage and from that moment forward she spent every waking moment ensuring that she would be ready when he finally came for her.

Unfortunately, Laurie’s obsession with Michael Myers led to a pair of divorces and she’s estranged from her daughter Karen, who was taken away from her when she was just 12 years old. Laurie has bonded with her teenage granddaughter Allyson but even that relationship is frayed when Halloween night is drawing near.

And none of this works if Michael Myers doesn’t find a way to escape yet again and find his way back to his hometown to quench his own murderous thirst by killing anyone and everyone who steps in his path.

Finally — remember this movie is serving as a direct sequel to the 1978 original so forget everything you know about ‘Halloween II’ and the hospital, ‘Halloween 4 and 5’ with Laurie’s daughter Jamie and really try to erase ‘Halloween 6’ and a bizarre curse from your memory forever.

Acting

Not everybody is made for a horror movie no matter how many awards adorn their mantle but Jamie Lee Curtis was the perfect victim in 1978 and she’s an even better heroine in 2018.

The new ‘Halloween’ movie was largely predicated on getting her back for the sequel and thankfully she signed on because I’m not sure any other version of this story would work without her. Curtis was the quintessential ‘final girl’ and she’s evolved into a truly bad ass woman by the time we find her in this sequel

Curtis doesn’t play Laurie Strode as a one note character just because she’s been preparing for Michael Myers to return for the past 40 years. Instead, Curtis finds a way to add layers to this character as we see her growing paranoia start to infect her family and the real terror that shaped her life after that awful night in 1978.

The supporting cast does a great job as well with Judy Greer really holding it down as Laurie’s daughter Karen as well as Andi Matichak more than pulling her weight as Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson. Will Patton does an admirable job as the Haddonfield sheriff who was working back in 1978 when Michael Myers first returned to town and the remaining cast including Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees as the podcasters, who seemingly stir the serial killer back to life with their visit.

If there’s one weak link amongst an otherwise stellar cast it’s Haluk Bilginer, who plays Michael’s psychologist or as Laurie calls him ‘the new Loomis’. Maybe it’s because Donald Pleasance was so good in the original but Bilginer has big shoes to fill with his role and he never quite pulls it off.

Directing and Writing

One of the best parts about the new ‘Halloween’ movie is that the writers and director (David Gordon Green directed and also co-wrote the script) stick to the formula that still makes the slasher genre a scary good time at the movies. Michael Myers is single minded of purpose and deadly — so watching him go from house to house, just killing anybody in his way really speaks to the heart of this heartless character.

The direction does a great job of elevating the tension in particular scenes and while there are a few of those surprising jolts that serve to just make you jump, they aren’t heavy handed with those tricks in the new ‘Halloween’. Instead, Green really only uses those taut moments when you really are scared of what’s just around the corner or behind every door.

Again, the new ‘Halloween’ isn’t trying to reinvent the genre, which is a huge reason why this film works so well.

And just to add this — John Carpenter and his son wrote the updated score for this new movie and that man truly is the master of horror when it comes to creating the perfect music for these kinds of films.

What’s Wrong with the Movie?

While it’s completely understandable why Green and his fellow co-writers wanted to forget many of the mindless sequels that followed the original ‘Halloween’ there was still some useful mythology that helped propel the movies beyond the original.

The biggest plot point being that Michael Myers was actually Laurie Strode’s brother. Now that’s been retconned for the new sequel — and that was revealed long ago in the trailer so that’s not a spoiler by any means — and Michael is back to just being a mindless killer stalking his prey with no rhyme or reason.

Now the new movie spends a lot of time exploring the obsession of trying to understand what makes a psychopath do what they do — and that’s really the driving force behind every person you meet in this film that seeks to interact with Michael Myers. They want to know what makes him tick.

But what makes Michael go after Laurie Strode this time around? Well without spoiling the movie, I can’t exactly explain it but it’s probably the most ridiculous part of this film — but it doesn’t ruin the movie by any stretch of the imagination.

Conversely the plot of a psychotic brother constantly stalking his sister was a theme that everybody could understand and it truly connected Michael to Laurie.

Final Verdict

The new ‘Halloween’ is a pulse-pumping and tense update on the classic original from 1978. There are plenty of Easter eggs hidden throughout the movie that pay homage to some of the stronger sequels in the franchise without carrying over some of the dumber mythology that dragged those movies down. As previously stated, there’s one character and plot twist that is a bit of a head shaking decision but otherwise this film fits perfectly into the pantheon of the best slasher movies of all time.

‘Halloween’ gets 4 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale

 

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